Russian stamps 10 kopecks imperforate, strip of five, largest multiple known. Ex Fabergé

Russian stamps 10 kopecks imperforate, strip of five, largest multiple known. Ex Fabergé

November 25, 2012

British Journal of Russian Philately N°102

I have in front of my eyes the brand new issue N°102 of the British Journal of Russian Philately. 

What a delight for the eyes... The editors have made a GREAT effort to higher the present level (which was already good in the past) of presentation of the legendary journal. There are at present 110 pages of full colour quality articles and news.

The previous issue (101) was fully packed with great articles from Dr Raymond Casey (the Captain's log), Terry Page (excellent introduction to Zemstvo postal history), Philip Robinson (Baikal lake postal history) to name only a few.

The present issue will not disapppoint the reader, with interesting inputs from Edward Klempka, David Skipton, Travor Pateman, Jack Moyes, Alexander Epstein and others very good contibutors.

If you are interested in Russian philately, it would be a shame to miss such a nice moment of reading, and to learn a great deal of things in between!

You can join the British Society of Russian Philately, and thus get the BJRP for free, for a very reasonable fee. Please check the society's website at

Maxime Citerne

November 21, 2012

Zemstvo Chronicle 3: Gadiach Sewing Machine Perforation

One of the great marvel of Zemstvo collecting (and there are many of them) is that, despite the numerous specialized catalogues created up to now, LOTS of information is missing and many discoveries are still to be made. Of course, we need to be dedicated and, actually, passionated by this field in order to really 'suck up its juice'.

Gadiach Schmidt 33 - 3 kopecks olive yellow & brownish red, 1894 printing
SEWING MACHINE PERFORATION (Rouletted) - RRRR, probably unique
(Author's collection)

Recently I blogged about a scarce line perforated issue from Gadiach. The stamp above is a new discovery that I made not so long ago, while buying some gadiach stamps on the net. It is the 3 kopecks olive yellow & brownish red printing, 1894 edition, labelled as number 33 by both Schmidt and GPS.

As you would have already noticed, the stamp clearly shows some Sewing Machine Perforation, also called Rouletted Perforation. They were applied very casually (and rarely!) over some sheets of the following edition (1895 issue, Schmidt 35/37), and Schmidt records only the carmine rose & violet (S34) and blue green & carmine rose (S37) stamps. Both stamps are rated 'RR' (9 to 15 copies known). But the same Sewing Machine Perforation applied to the previous issue had never been recorded so far.

To give a clue about their scarcity, the Sewing Machine Perforation (on both the 1894 or 1895 stamps) was unheard of Oleg Fabergé himself; he had none in his collection.

It is quite unclear to me when and where these rouletted perf. have been applied; but, as  an hypothesis, the very resemblance with the issues of Zenkov (also in the Poltava Gubernya) makes me feel that they could have been applied accidentally on some Gadiach sheets (and as such, very rarely!) by the printer in Poltava, while he was busy producing some stamps for the Zenkov district.

Readers are welcome to check their own stamps, and I wish them to find one of these rarities. You can post the results of your search as a comment here.

Maxime Citerne

November 7, 2012

Zemstvo Chronicle 2: Gadiach Shifted Center Varieties

The standard issues of Gadiach from 1892 till 1904 are some of the most fascinating issues from this district. About 20 different editions have been printed, with a wide range of color shades, plate and sheet compositions. It can take a lifetime to really explore deeply the various possibilities of study that enables those issues.

The regular stamps were printed in two colors (a few editions were unicolor), with two plates (one for the frame, one for the center), and the operation needed two manipulations: first   the frame was printed, then the sheet was placed under the second plate and the coat of arms was then applied. Some of the rarest stamps of these issues are the famous Shifted Centers varieties. For the Shifted Centers, simply put, the printer carelessly shifted the sheet too much on one side during the second operation.

Since the printer was rather careless (these stamps did not benefited from the professionalism and expertise of the postal department in St Petersburg), a number of regular stamps display a slight shifted of the coat of arms. Those are not to be considered as varieties (please see scan below); only the substancial shifts should qualify as Shifted Center varieties.

Gadiach 3 kopecks indigo blue & carmine rose (S35)
Top part of the 1895 sheet showing a slight upward misplacement of the Coat of Arms.
This stamp is often seen with a slight shift upward of the center. I would NOT qualify this as a Shifted Center variety. (Author's collection)

All those Shifted Center from 1892-1904 (Schmidt 28/44) are rarities. They remain unrecorded in both the Schmidt, Chuchin and GPS (2004) catalogues. Until now I have seen only three stamps: the indigo blue & carmine rose and dark lilac & carmine rose printing (1895 plates, S35-36) and the orange yellow & rose printing (1897 plates, S39). I have been able to gather three copies (don't ask me how I did it, I am still surprised at this feat), although there are probably a handful of other copies in other holdings. I would roughly estimate that there are about 3 to 10 copies maximum of each Shifted Center.

Gadiach 1897 Plates - 3 kopecks orange yellow & rose printing (S39)
Variety Center Shifted. Probably RRR (4 to 8 copies known) 
Ex. Baughman (Author's collection) 

Below is a copy of the dark lilac & carmine rose printing with Shifted Center. I have seen only two copies until now, both in my collection. The first copy (not illustrated here) was part of the Fabergé collection; the second copy, illustrated below, comes from the Baughman collection. 

Gadiach 1895 Plates - 3 kopecks dark lilac & carmine rose (S36)
Variety Center Shifted. Probably RRR (4 to 8 copies known)
Ex Baughman

Now the good news is that as I see no point of keeping two copies of that stamp, I am offering the Baughman stamp on Ebay. It is an exceptional opportunity to get a very rare stamp, with a low starting price (only 299$). You can follow the sale here.

Maxime Citerne

November 3, 2012

Famous Philatelists, part 1: Michel Liphschutz

Michel Liphschutz was born in St Petersburg the 25 February 1910. In 1922, his parents moved to France, Paris, with their son and daughter, leaving in Russia part of their family. He was then 12 years old. 

Brillant chimist and engineer, he started his industrial career in France in 1934, quickly grewing his professional position thanks to his intelligence and dynamism.

Michel Liphschutz started collecting Russian stamps in 1944, and built over 50 years of dedicated research the second greatest collection of Russian stamps in the world, second only to that of Oleg Fabergé.

Particularly impressive was his collection of the first issues, loaded with a fantastic array of rarities. His collection of Russia n°1, for instance, consisted of more than 300 copies, preceded by over 40 (!) different unadopted essays of the famous Mercury or Eagle types (1854-57).

He was also one of the first to assemble an 'ultimate' specialized collection of RSFSR and Soviet Union, during a time where those areas were quite unpopular. The world first reference catalogue to be published on the subject (by the Cercle Philatélique France URSS in 1969)  was greatly based on the Liphschutz collection.

Ex. Liphschutz (left to right): January 1858  30kop. mint block of four (one of two recorded); 1854 fabulous essay on envelope with trial cancellations (unique); 1857 10kop. complete sheet of paper with watermark "1" (unique in private hands)

Below: RSFSR 1918 extremely rare Essay of unadopted designs, the so-called 'Nathan Altman' sheetlet (one of three knwon)

His Zemstvo and Russian Post Offices Abroad were some of the best ever realised. One of the greatest gem, in his own words, being the famous Mongolian ulankom cover, that he discovered in the 1940's.

A page from the Liphschutz Zemstvo collection: selection of rarities (between 1 to 9 copies recorded)

Unafraid of paying the price for a rare piece, he once lost during an auction the unique 1858 set in mint blocks of four (Mi 2-4) (see the 30 kopecks block above); quickly understanding that he had lost for basing his bids on the market's estimation, and not on his own wishes, when the same set was finally offered 20 years later, he sent a French dealer in New York with the sole instruction 'BUY': he didn't want to make the same mistake twice!

Michel Liphschutz was an educated scholar and gentleman. I remember vividly some stories of my grandfather, who was one of his friend, visiting the Liphschutz residence in Neuilly sur Seine, where they would exchange their views and knowledge surrounded by books. His life was of course much more than stamps; he spent some time in Soviet Union to find some family members missing after the disastrous WWII, and could eventually succeed. He was also known for having done a lot to help his family. His sister Ida was a medical doctor running a clinic in the south of France.

The famous Ulankom cover: reproduced from the Craveri sale catalogue (Part IV), February 1994

High level philatelist, Michel Liphschutz was member of the French Académie de Philatélie since 1958, signed the prestigious Roll of Distinguished Philatelists (RDP) in 1968, became President of the Académie de Philatélie in 1980 and second president of the Cercle Philatélique France URSS (after Gabriel Citerne, my grandfather).

A rare photo: Michel Liphschutz (center) showing his collections to philatelic friends in the 1970s. First on the left is Gabriel Citerne, founder and first president of the Cercle Philatélique France URSS (author's archives).

His prestigious collections were sold in Switzerland by Guido Craveri/Harmers over a breath-taking serie of auctions. The catalogues of those sales are, still today, an important reference for any serious collector of this field.


Michel Liphschutz passed away the 5 September 1994, at the age of 84.